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pack of spacers on top of floor tiles

What size tile spacers and how to use

Tile spacers are a very important part of tiling. These mighty mini joint makers come in lots of different shapes and sizes with some even helping you level your tiles! Amazing!

But before you rush out and buy a mountain of them, we’re here to talk you through the basics of how to choose and use the best ones for you.

What are tile spacers? - What's in a name?

Tile spacers are a little X of plastic that you put at the corners of your tiles to make sure your joints (the gap between your tiles) are the same shape and size. Unless a unique part of your design vision, wonky donkey joints are just rubbish and make tiling harder so tile spacers are a must.

As tiling projects have different specifications, tile spacers also come in a range of sizes from 2mm - 10mm. According to British standards, walls should have a minimum width of 2mm between tiles and floors should have 3mm. This is because tiles expand and contract and also move slightly with weight on them so a bit of wiggle room is needed.

The rest is down to personal preference, how you wage war on lippage and whether you're showcasing grout as part of your design vision. Take a look at our tile spacers here.

How do I choose tile spacers? - Tiling in the name of...

The first choice we have is X shaped tile spacers which are a great cost-effective jointing solution. Lay them flat to line up four joints/tiles in a cross for straight - stack bond tiling patterns or stood up for a brick bond or herringbone pattern

X shaped tile spacers look a little something like this:

Genesis x tile spacers in a pile on white background

Tile Spacers by Genesis —

The second choice is a tile levelling system. The Genesis Pro Spin Tile Levelling System does exactly what it suggests and can also be used for a variety of tile layout patterns. Easy-to-use and quick to install, these take all the guesswork out of an even and level surface meaning they definitely get the thumbs up from us.

To find out more, watch this how to video:

The main differences between the 2 options are that X tile spacers need to be removed before grouting, whereas the tile levelling system is designed to stay in the adhesive and make levelling less time-consuming and annoying.

Whichever tile joint solution you choose, you need to calculate how many tile spacers you need. The simple way to do that is multiply the number of tiles you’ve got by the amount of corners on each tile

So, if you have 105 tiles, 105 tiles x 4 corners per tile = 420 tile spacers needed. 

How do I use tile spacers and put them in effectively? 

hand putting spacers into grout joints of grey tiles

The important thing to remember is that unless you are using specially designed spacers or a tile levelling system, what goes in must come out. So however you decide to place them, make sure you know your exit strategy.  

Tile spacers were designed to sit at the corners between tiles, so as soon as you have found your tile’s perfect position in the adhesive, you should place your spacers in their sweet spot. There are two favoured ways to do this:

  1. Lie your tile spacers so that the ‘legs’ go down the length of the joints. This is great for maintaining a uniform tile gap but can make for a tricker tile spacer exit strategy, as there’s less to grab hold of.
  2. Place the spacers with a ‘leg’ pointing into the adhesive so that one part is sticking out like a handle. All you have to do at removal time is get some leverage under your ‘handle’ and gently lift. Simples.

Once you have the tile spacers in, just shimmy the next tile up against them to create a consistent tile gap then rinse and repeat. 

Can I grout over tile spacers? - Just say no

The quick answer is no. The longer answer is that most tile spacers are not meant to be stuck in the adhesive and then grouted over. If you did this, you would end up with nice little cracks over the outline of the tile spacers and/or plastic protruding from joints where the spacers haven’t sat deep enough.

Either scenario isn’t good and needs to be avoided at all costs, to avoid future costs.

How and when do I take out the tile spacers? - Good riddance, ya filthy animal

This is a million-dollar question that depends on the adhesive you used (see pack instructions for details). However, most fast-setting adhesives cure within 20-30 minutes, so you’ll likely need to get them out before then.

Be careful not to get them out too early. If you do, your tiles will slip and your joints will close (which is bad and will look awful). If you wait too long, they either won’t come out or you’ll end up damaging/loosening the surrounding tiles. And probably cursing tiling gods.

If you stick to the manufacturer’s instructions and keep an eye on timings while tiling, you should be hunky-dory.

How to remove tile spacers

metro white tile with spacers sticking out of grout joints and pulled out of wall with pliers

To remove your tile spacers:

  • Slide a chisel or scraper underneath one of their horizontal arms and lift the spacer so that it pops out.
  • If one of them gives you a bit of gip, just use the chisel to separate the spacer from the adhesive (going along the joint) or use some needle-nosed pliers to grip and ease the spacer out.
  • Make sure that whatever tugging you do goes along the length of the joint so that you doesn’t disturb the neighbouring tiles; they can get really cranky.

Then rinse and wipe off the good ones to pack away for the next project. Done!


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Next article How to tile a wall - Tile like you mean it

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